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All Whaled Out March 26, 2012

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These kitties are hoping for some fish.

My final thoughts on Moby Dick:

That crazy dude, Cpt. Ahab, had only spent like 4 years on land for 40 at sea, whaling. He married some lass half his age and spent 1 night in the marriage bed before setting sail again. So Cpt. Ahab doesn’t like land and isn’t too partial to the married life. He let his life be defined by this mad hunt for the White Whale. He offered his crew a gold doubloon to the one who sights Moby Dick. Yet then claims the first sighting, and hence, the reward, for himself. Talk about demotivational acts by the management.

There was a chunk of a chapter that spent some quality time talking about how the sturgeon and the whale are the only 2 Royal Fish (English). That it is standard to present the head of a whale, or at least the head bones, to the King and the tail of the whale to the Queen. Why? Melville asks this question too, without coming up with a satisfactory reason. Intriguing.

The ending was a surprise to me. I managed to miss many of these classics through my public schooling and had avoided hearing about the ending to this story. I spent the entire book wondering what Ahab would feel upon finally catching, and conquering, his wet, salty foe (it was my assumption that he would get his whale). SPOILER ALERT so when Ahab doesn’t get his whale, and indeed, Ishmael is the only survivor left, I felt a little let down; yet oddly satisfied that Ahab doesn’t get to sail away smugly END SPOILER.

As a closing note on this story, the narrator Ishmael spends some quality time convincing the readers that whales will not, indeed cannot, be hunted to extinction. He cites that the whales are infinitely plentiful due to the vastness of the seas and the fact that the whales will always have the poles, where humans cannot follow for hunting. See my response to that below.

1700s – Atlantic population of the Gray Whale went extinct

2006 – Yangtze River Dolphin declared extinct

2010 – The Gray Whale, thought to be extinct for centuries, was spotted in the Mediterranean

HERE is an excellent site with numbers representing the effects of whaling industry on the prevalence of whales.

Spermaceti and Elephants March 10, 2012

Posted by nrlymrtl in Moby Dick.
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Tanuki, a little bored with Moby Dick.

At roughly 2/3rds of the way through Moby Dick, I have found a few more interesting things. Now I have the audio version and these whalers kept using the term ‘spermaceti‘ and I had to wikipedia it to figure out what they were talking about. Specifically there is this graphic scene where one of the whalers actually falls into the head of a slaughtered whale. He had been bailing out this precious spermaceti and his perch was quite slippery.

This no longer being a whaling age, by and large, I was not sure what us humans would do with spermaceti, nor why it would be worth so much effort and money. I can see what the whale was doing with it up to the point of it’s demise and I would vote to leave it in a live whale where it was doing some good. But this is not a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure story. This is a historical classic. In short, in a live whale it is wax in the head cavity of sperm whales. Harvested by humans it was once used for pharmaceuticals, ointments, perfumes, and a few other things.

I was amused by the section where our narrator, Ishmael, compares elephants to whales in size. He found no other connection between the two. Genetics and evolutionary science has draw the lines between these two species for us since this book was published. Clikc HERE for more info.

One of the aspects I found interesting was how the whalers petted and played with females and baby whales (cubs?) while fellow whalers slaughtered a few of the larger whales on the edges of the group.

Half a Whale February 25, 2012

Posted by nrlymrtl in Moby Dick.
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I just passed the half-way mark in Moby Dick this morning while I made breakfast. I don’t think I would have gotten this far in this book without the audio version. That whole chapter on the color white probably would have been the end of the book for me if I had to put eyeballs to paper. Just saying.

Some interesting bits:

– At ~1/2 way through, the whalers finally kill a whale.

– Whale oil was once used for all sorts of things, like anointing kings and popes.

– Sometimes whalers would also harpoon porpoises. A good size porpoise will provide ~1 gallon of high-priced oil.

– The attitude that if an animal fights back (whale, tiger, bear, etc.), then it is malevolent. Really? Huh? Self-preservation doesn’t carry over to animals? This probably is the hardest cultural concept for me to accept. That all animals are put on earth for humans to use as we wish and they should, if not happily, at least with no fuss give up their lives when required.

So where are you and what have you found interesting?

Modern Reference to a Classic February 18, 2012

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Heldig uses Tofu as a warm, kushy pillow every chance she gets.

OK, so you are wondering what this pic has to do with the Big Beautiful Classics that us Darkcargoites have decided to take on. And if you are not wondering, and really you only stop by to look at the cute cat pics, that’s OK too.

Two nights ago while reading this modern mystery set in Montana, there was a reference to Moby Dick. I was pleasantly surprised. And had I not been reading Moby Dick and known who Queequeg was, the reference would have been lost on me. Instead, I felt quite smart. +4 for Ego Boost.